2017-09-27-2018-05-20 --- 2018-05-20 11:21:21--18
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LOT :17
Colin Middleton RHA RUA MBE (1910-1983)
Woods in June (1950)
Oil on canvas, 66 x 76cm (26 x 30'')
Estimate EUR : €15,000.00 - €20,000.00
Auction Date : 27-09-2017


Colin Middleton RHA RUA MBE (1910-1983)
Woods in June (1950)
Oil on canvas, 66 x 76cm (26 x 30'')
Signed; Inscribed with title and dated June 1950 verso (AR 95)

It was only during the year that he spent working on a farm in England, between 1947 and 1948, that Colin Middleton considered he had become a landscape painter, and shortly after his return to Northern Ireland he discovered in the landscape around Ardglass a crucial inspiration for one of the greatest periods of his painting.

With the support of Victor Waddington, who had agreed a contract with Middleton in November 1948, he was able to move away from Belfast to the County Down fishing village in July 1949 and could at last paint full-time. His first exhibition in Waddingtons gallery, held in February 1949, had been such a success that the Dublin Magazine reviewer wrote that Middleton from being just one of the more interesting of the moderns, has become a great painter(1).

In the eighteen months between this and his second exhibition with Waddington, Middleton had shown in London and the USA and had been the subject of an article in Envoy; Waddington had even raised the idea of publishing a book on his work. The looser, more expressionistic manner of painting that he had deliberately conceived and moved towards while in England is the defining aspect of this period and is perfectly exemplified in these two works. They demonstrate the direct application of pigment in patches of flat colour alongside areas where it is worked into more complex descriptive passages.

There is remarkable tonal contrast in each work and the vibrant palette expresses Middletons passion for this landscape and his self-belief as a painter, despite the difficulties and doubts he still experienced. The composition demonstrates his admiration for Cézanne, reawakened by a visit to the Tate in December 1947, with trees and buildings used as compositional elements to define space and connect receding planes. Middleton wrote in 1951 that an Expressionist should take the same pains as Cézanne in the slow production of his pictures(2).

Despite the joyously spontaneous mood of each work, evoking what he described as the prolonged fine weather(3) of the early summer, Middleton never painted direct from the motif and would have allowed a composition to evolve in his studio from memory, perhaps from one or two sketches made in a small notebook while out walking, as well as from a sense of what he wanted the work to express. His friend, the writer Bruce Barr, described these as landscapes where the mood of the painter has flowed into the object of his interest and animated it for us(4).

Both these landscapes appear to have been included in the 1950 exhibition at the Waddington Galleries, from which more than one third of the works were sold within a fortnight. Daniel ONeill wrote to Middleton that to express the great depth of feeling and emotion I received on looking at the pictures in your show is quite impossible(5), while Waddington confirmed his own opinion that the exhibition is magnificent(6).

(1) Colin Middleton, Paintings 1942-49, Dublin Magazine, April-June 1949

(2) Letter from Colin Middleton to Victor Waddington, 26 February 1951, Colin Middleton Archive, NMNI

(3) Letter from Colin Middleton to Victor Waddington, 11 June 1950, Private Collection

(4) Bruce Barr, unpublished article, Colin Middleton: Notes on Some Recent Paintings, Private Collection

(5) Undated note, Private Collection

(6) Letter from Victor Waddington to Colin Middleton, 20 October 1950, Private Collection


Dickon Hall, August 2017



Hammer Price : €37,000.00
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